In yet another body blow to the Left Front government and CPM, the Kerala High Court this week handed over the investigation into the murder of a Youth Congress leader in strife-torn Kannur last month to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The ruling came just after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the Assembly that the police investigation was on the right track and “there was no need to involve the CBI”. Vijayan had misled the House when he said that a Cabinet colleague had never “expressed the government’s willingness for a CBI probe into the murder”. Contrary to his statement, minister A.K. Balan, presiding over a peace meeting in Kannur ten days after the gruesome incident, had told newspersons that the government was ready “for any kind of investigation”. It was after this that the parents of the victim, Shuhaib, handed over a letter to the Chief Minister, requesting for a CBI probe since they did not expect justice from the local police. However, the Chief Minister, who also holds the home portfolio, stuck to his position that his police was doing a good job, though it took full one week for the CM to even acknowledge that such an incident had indeed happened in his hometown.

The tenth murder in the district since the ruling dispensation took charge in May 2016, 30-year-old Shuhaib was hacked to death on the night of 12 February. A special investigation team of the Kerala police has so far arrested 11 persons in connection with the killing, all CPM members, though the party leadership insists that it has no role in the murder. Instead of admitting that those arrested are indeed party workers, Kannur CPM district secretary said that “the party will accept any role only after an internal inquiry”. Those who know the ways of the functioning of CPM also know that it means a party “clean chit” for all those involved in the crime.

Allowing the petition filed by Shuhaib’s parents, a single judge of the court, Justice Kemal Pasha observed that “lower rung workers of political parties are being used as pawns by their leaders” to eliminate their political enemies. The court felt that the case was qualified to be listed under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Police investigation has revealed that bombs were thrown to terrorise people in the area. Such a case should be investigated under the UAPA, the court said. The petitioners felt a free and fair investigation may not be possible in the case by the local police as their hands were tied. They pointed out that the first accused in the case was a close acquaintance of many top CPM leaders in the district. (The main accused’s selfie with Jayarajan and Pinarayi Vijayan is doing the rounds in social media.) The court accepted these arguments of the petitioners that proper and fair investigation into the case may not be possible by the local police. Suspecting a wider conspiracy behind the murder, the court felt it needed to be brought out. An investigation into the conspiracy angle would help in preventing the recurrence of such acts, and hence, the court directed CBI to take over the case. The judge also dismissed the arguments of the state attorney that only the Division Bench of the High Court could order a CBI investigation. Shuhaib’s will be the fourth case investigated by CBI in Kannur district alone. In all four cases, CPM activists are the main accused. In each of these cases, the party has denied any involvement, but is defending the accused in different courts.

* Thalassery Popular Front activist Muhammad Fazal was murdered on 21 February 2012. Initial reports pointed to BJP hand in the murder. However, Fazal’s wife refused to believe this and moved court for a CBI probe. CBI found that CPM workers were behind the murder and slapped a conspiracy case against two senior CPM leaders of the area.

* Muslim League worker Ariyil Abdul Shukkoor was “executed” by CPM men after a public trial on 24 February 2012. He was accused of throwing stones at the car in which district CPM secretary P. Jayarajan and the local MLA were travelling. It is said that over 400 party sympathisers were witness to the murder.

* RSS district saareerak shikshan pramukh, Kathiroor Manoj was killed on 1 September 2014. He was hacked to death near his house after bombs were thrown. The main accused was a close associate of district secretary Jayarajan, who has been named accused no. 25 in the case. UAPA has also been charged. Manoj was one of the accused in an attempt to murder Jayarajan and his killing was said to be in retaliation to this.

* Youth Congress leader Shuhaib was murdered on 12 February 2018. Only weeks before the murder, the main accused is seen in a video leading a CPM procession shouting slogans that Shuhaib’s days were numbered.

Still CPM leadership claims innocence. “There is nothing for the CPM to hide in Shuhaib murder case. We are not afraid of any investigation including CBI probe,” party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said, adding that the arrest of party workers had been taken seriously.

Despite putting up this brave front, CPM leadership tried its best to thwart a CBI probe into the latest murder. More than anyone the leadership knows that once the Central agency investigates the real murderers, those who mastermind the action will be brought to justice. In all the cases over the years leaders of the “working class party” have got away while cadres belonging to poor families languish in jail, prime years of their lives gone waste. “There must be an end to this drama. Let this be an eye opener for such persons,” Justice Kemal Pasha said in his order. 

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